Get access

Bridging Restoration Science and Practice: Results and Analysis of a Survey from the 2009 Society for Ecological Restoration International Meeting


R. J. Cabin, email


Developing and strengthening a more mutualistic relationship between the science of restoration ecology and the practice of ecological restoration has been a central but elusive goal of SERI since its inaugural meeting in 1989. We surveyed the delegates to the 2009 SERI World Conference to learn more about their perceptions of and ideas for improving restoration science, practice, and scientist/practitioner relationships. The respondents' assessments of restoration practice were less optimistic than their assessments of restoration science. Only 26% believed that scientist/practitioner relationships were “generally mutually beneficial and supportive of each other,” and the “science–practice gap” was the second and third most frequently cited category of factors limiting the science and practice of restoration, respectively (“insufficient funding” was first in both cases). Although few faulted practitioners for ignoring available science, many criticized scientists for ignoring the pressing needs of practitioners and/or failing to effectively communicate their work to nonscientists. Most of the suggestions for bridging the gap between restoration science and practice focused on (1) developing the necessary political support for more funding of restoration science, practice, and outreach; and (2) creating alternative research paradigms to both facilitate on-the-ground projects and promote more mutualistic exchanges between scientists and practitioners. We suggest that one way to implement these recommendations is to create a “Restoration Extension Service” modeled after the United States Department of Agriculture's Cooperative Extension Service. We also recommend more events that bring together a fuller spectrum of restoration scientists, practitioners, and relevant stakeholders.